In memory of the life, love and wit of Carol Versandi
But is it Art?
February 14, 2014
Growing up I was always a big movie fan.
Some kids liked sports, some kids liked cars.
I loved movies.
Specifically horror and science fiction movies.
The grosser, the better.
And out of my love for those types of movies, grew my fascination with special effects and makeup. Not cosmetic – blush and eyeliner – makeup…more like blood, guts and gore makeup.
I was always making my own monster or halloween masks out of cardboard or paper mache. Stealing my moms red lipstick to simulate blood or cutting up our bedsheets for mummy costumes.
…Carol was never all that thrilled with that last bit…
And as I grew older, my love and skills progressed.
I graduated from lipstick to making my own corn syrup blood capsules and from paper mache to professional foam appliances – the stuff the guys in the movies use.
In my freshmen year of High School, my art teacher gave us a homework assignment. He asked us to bring in something that we made that represented the type of art we personally liked.
I knew the type of "art" I liked, but I didn't really have a plan or any specific idea of what to bring in to class.
What I did have was an oversized plastic novelty bank in the shape of a Heineken beer bottle
and a gallon of liquid latex.
So, I did what anyone would do in that situation…
I covered the bottle in latex and waited for it to dry. And when it did, I removed the latex by slowly rolling it up from the bottom and up over the top lip of the bottle.
Basically what I was left with, was this:
Only much much bigger.
Again, I must reiterate, it was not my plan to make a giant condom..it just happened. But I was impressed all the same. And I knew my art teacher would be impressed as well. …or at least I hoped he would be.
So the day of our little show and tell art exhibit arrived and I brought in my giant novelty condom....which by the way, was waaaaaaay better than anything anyone else brought in...and showed it to my teacher.
I explained how I made it and the materials I used.
Surprisingly enough, my teacher was in fact impressed.
He did say that it was not appropriate for school and that I should get rid of it immediately, but it did meet the requirements of the assignment.
He was also not the only one impressed.
By the end of the class, I had taken 15 or 16 orders to make giant condoms for other students. $10 bucks a pop.
Not only was I an artist, I was an entrepreneur.
But I was also a teenager and therefore an idiot.
After art class I put the giant condom in my book bag and went about the rest of the school day. By that afternoon, almost everyone in my grade knew about it - word traveled fast back then even without Facebook and Twitter.
That afternoon while sitting in my Science class one of my friends wanted to see the now legendary "Giant Condom of Commack High School".
So, discreetly, while the teacher wasn't looking, I pulled it out of my bag and showed him. Of course this made him laugh outloud ( I guess he lol'd for real) which then of course made the other students look which then of course made them all laugh.
I quickly shoved the condom back in my bag and tried to look as innocent as possible while the teacher, who was chronically grumpy to begin with and didn't really like me in the first place, tried to figure out what all the fuss ( remember, don't make a fuss ) was about.
Now, I don't know why I did what I did next.
Maybe it was because I enjoyed the attention I was getting...maybe it was because I was being egged on....maybe it's because I was a big fan of shenanigans...who can say?
But when the teacher turned around to continue writing on the black board, I - very quietly - snuck up behind him and placed the mythical prophylactic on his desk and just as quietly snuck back to my seat.
You can pretty much just imagine what happened next.
The teacher turned around, saw the condom and the class literally exploded in laughter....and he in turn just exploded.
He grabbed the condom in his gnarled wrinkled fist and shook it screaming "Who Did This?!?! Who The Hell Is Responsible For This....This....This Filth???"
The word "filth" hung in the air like a cloud of poison gas.
The room went deathly silent and all eyes turned towards me.
Traitors! I give you the gift of laughter and this is how you repay me?
Bastards....Finks....Stoolies...Snitches...the whole lot of ya!
Long story short, I was given 3 days external suspension for my tomfoolery.
External suspension is when they send you home as a punishment.
They sent me home.
For 3 days.
I made a condom...I brought it to school....and they let me...no...they made me stay home for the next 3 days.
But here's the good part.
When you are externally suspended you need to have a parent bring you back to school, sign you in and have a sit down meeting with the dean that issued the suspension. Otherwise, you can't come back.
In my case, the dean that suspended me was Mr. Barry. The biggest hardass any school has ever seen anywhere. Mr. Barry was born without two things...a neck and a sense of humor. He was a no bullshit kind of guy. In fact, he was a no bullshit, no laughter, no smiling, never happy, always mad, hated kids with every fiber of his being kind of guy.
But fortunately, I had back up.
I had my mother.
And just like a mother lion is fiercly protective of her cubs, so was Carol Versandi.
She recognized that what I did to get suspended was wrong, she just felt that punishment did not fit the crime and she was, sure as shit, going to let them know.
Now, as I mentioned, Mr. Barry was a "no fooling around" kind of guy. And he used his considerable stature and surely dememonor to his advantage. He knew he struck an imposing figure and often times used it to intimidate.
What he didn't know was that you could not intimidate my mother.
No way. No chance. No how.
She walked right into his office and pointed her little Carol finger right in his bulbous face and gave him 31 different flavors of what for.
There was arm waiving and name calling and maybe even a headlock or two.
Mr. Barry never stood a chance.
I almost felt bad for him.
And at the end of it, I was given the one thing that Mr. Barry never....NEVER gave any student before and probably never gave since.